The picture of the FCC under Trump continued to develop – even if it failed to become clearer – this week as yet another name surfaced as a replacement for current Chairman Tom Wheeler.
According to a report in the New York Post, former AT&T and Comcast CTO David Fellows’ name has been floated for the position. Fellows, who served as CTO of AT&T Broadband from 2001 to 2003 and CTO at Comcast Cable from 2003 to 2008, is co-founder and current CTO of Layer3 TV, an IP-based pay TV service.
Fellows is reportedly up for the spot against other likely candidates including current senior Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and Trump’s FCC transition consultant Jeffrey Eisenach, the Post reported.
University of Colorado Law Professor and former White House adviser Phil Weiser is also among the list of candidates for the Chairman role, but might also be selected as a commissioner. The latter might happen if either Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel fails to be reconfirmed by the Senate or Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, also a Democrat, chooses to step down from her post, The Post said.
The speculation comes ahead of Wheeler’s anticipated departure alongside the Obama Administration at the end of this year. Wheeler’s role as chairman will end with President-elect Trump’s inaguration in January, but he has the option to remain on the commission for the remainder of his term, which ends in November 2018.
So far, Wheeler has been vague about his plans to leave the commission, dodging reporter questions on the subject at the most recent FCC meeting in November. At the time, Wheeler said he had not yet decided on a date to step down, nor had he made a decision about whether to remain on the commission to preserve a 2-2 balance should Rosenworcel’s confirmation fail to come through. Wheeler told reporters he would keep them posted once a decision was finalized.
Whether Wheeler stays or goes, it is all but certain Republicans will gain the majority advantage that allowed Wheeler to push through several controversial measures as chairman. And it’s widely believed that they will use that advantage to undo much of Wheeler’s work, despite his cautions that doing so would be a “mistake.”
“If the rhetoric of those surrounding Trump’s campaign rings true, we can expect a Republican FCC to make a big push to roll back some of the regulations put in place under President Obama such as the Title II/Net Neutrality rules,” Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in an early November note. “There may also be a push to roll back some or all of what the FCC just did on privacy. It’s unclear whether Chairman Wheeler will be able to act on the open items related to Business Data Services or set-top box reform before he departs and if he does not, some suggest a Republican FCC will reverse course on these two items.”
While it seems clear the regulatory environment at the FCC will tilt back in favor of “business” – or, more specifically, telcos and cable companies as opposed to Internet companies – Fritzsche pointed out a “big question” remains on the impact Trump’s presidency will have on mergers and acquisitions.
Filed Under: Industry regulations